Carolina Arantes' personal series documents the lives of first generation Afro-French young adults as they come of age in the Parisian suburbs.
Carolina Arantes has today been named the winner of the 2017 Firecracker Photographic Grant for her ongoing series First Generation, which explores life for Afro-French women living in the suburbs of Paris.
Following the decolonisation of Africa, France experienced high immigration numbers in the 1970s, many of whom settled in the Ile-de-France region that surrounds the French capital. These immigrants sought a better life for themselves and their children.
Now Arantes’ project explores the social and cultural impact of this move on the first generation of children born in France as they come of age. It is a project tied up in issues of national identity, free expression and feminism as France’s more liberal cultures clash with some more traditional African sentiments.
“Between colonialism and cosmopolitism, between a sense of not belonging and their nationality, many use the word schizophrenie to describe how it is to construct their identity in the middle of two antagonistic cultures,” explains Arantes.
An ongoing project, First Generation was conceived in 2013, and the Brazilian photographer has been shooting photographs for the series since 2014. The photographs have taken her to some of the most impoverished areas of France, but the collection demonstrates the humanity of these communities as the women overcome many obstacles and roadblocks to acceptance in the only country they have called home.
“For the black women of France, conquering their place in society is an individual and persistent movement that constantly met with obstacles on sexism and on prejudice. Although they face the same troubles as all women in modern times, they have also to face the historical opposition force of a recent colonization social mentality and have to overcome economical and lack of education problems that result from their parent’s immigration origin,” says Arantes.
First Generation was chosen as the winner from hundreds of entrants. A panel of judges selected the series above other entrants for its quality photography and its raw documentary approach: “She had such a tender approach to her chosen documentary subject that all the judges were excited about how this would evolve given the opportunity to develop her project further,” says Fiona Shields, head of photography at The Guardian and one of this year’s five panellists.
Arantes’ announcement as the 2017 winner of the Firecracker Grant means she will now be the beneficiary of £2000 funding to help her complete the project. Launched in 2012 by Fiona Rogers, the annual Firecracker Grant is supported by Genesis Imaging and aims to promote female photographers in an industry dominated by their male counterparts. Previous winners have included Diana Markosian, Lua Riberia and Sanne de Wilde.
Speaking to the British Journal of Photography from Paris, Rogers was delighted that the project is one about empowering women wherever they are, something which reinforces the aim of the grant itself. “Carolina’s win is a refreshing return to Firecracker’s original documentary roots. Her sensitive and considered approach to First Generation shines a bright and positive light on the subject of migration, at a time where this issue is often misunderstood. We are delighted to be supporting this work and look forward to seeing how it develops.”
Earlier this week, Rogers launched a photobook, Firecrackers: Female Photographers Now, co-authored with Max Houghton and published by Thames & Hudson, which brings together work from previous grant winners and some of the most fascinating photography projects the world over.